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On PARADISE LOST.
HEN I beheld the poet blind, yet bold,
Heav'n, hell, earth, chaos, all; the argument
I lik'd his project, the fuccefs did fear;
Thon haft not mifs'd one thought that could be fit,
So that no room is here for writers left,
That majefty which through thy work doth reign,
And things divine thou treat'ft of in such state
Where could't thou words of fuch a compass find?
While the Town-Bays writes all the while and fpelis,
And while I meant to praise thee, muft commend.
In number, weight, and measure, needs not rhyme.
HE meafure is English Heroic Verfe, without
Virgil in Latin; rhyme being no neceffary adjunct or true ornament of poem or good verfe, in longer works especially, but the invention of a barbarous age, to fet off wretched matter and lame metre; graced indeed fince by the use of some famous modern poets, carried away by cuftom; but much to their own vexation, hindrance, and constraint, to exprefs many things otherwife, and, for the most part, worse than lfe they would have expreffed them. Not without caufe, therefore, fome, both Italian and Spanifa rocts of prime note have rejected rhyme, both in longer and fhorter works, as have alfo long fince our beft English tragedies, as a thing of itself, to all judicious ears, trivial, and of no true mufical delight; which confifts only in apt numbers, fit quantity of fyllables, and the sense variously drawn out from one verfe into another, not in the jingling found of like endings, a fault avoided by the learned ancients both in poetry and all good oratory. This neglect then of rhyme fo little is to be taken for a defect, though it may feem fo perhaps to vulgar readers, that it rather is to be esteemed an example fet, the firft in English, of ancient liberty recovered to heroic poem, from the troublefome and modern bondage of rhyming.
This First Book proposes, first, in brief, the whole fubject, Man's disobedience, and the lofs thereupon of Paradife wherein he was placed: Then touches the prime caufe of his fall, the ferpent, or rather Satan in the ferpent; who, revolting from God, and drawing to his fide many legions of angels, was, by the command of God driven out of heaven, with all his crew, into the great deep. Which action passed over, the Poem haftes into the midft of things, prefenting Satan, with his angets, now fallen into hell, defcribed here, not in the centre, (for heaven and earth may be fuppofed as yet not made, certainly not yet accurfed), but in a place of utter darkness, fitlieft called Chaos. Here Satan, with his angels, lying on the burning lake, thunder-ftruck and astonished, after a certain space recovers, as from confufion, calls up him who next in order and dignity lay by him: They confer of their miferable fall. Satan awakens all his legions, who lay till then in the fame manner confounded: They rife; their numbers, array of battle, their chief leader's named, according to the idols known afterwards in Canaan and the countries adjoining. To thefe Satan directs his fpeech, comforts them with hope yet of regaining heaven ; but tells them, laftly, of a new wo`ld and new kind of creature to be created, according to an ancient prophecy or report in heaven; for that angels were long before this vifible creation, was the opinion of many ancient fathers. To find out the truth of this prophecy, and what to determine thereon, he refers to a full council. What his affociates thence attempt. Pandamonium, the palace of Satan, rifes, fuddenly built out of the deep: The infernal peers there fit in council. PARADISE
F man's first difobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree, whofe mortal tafte`
With lofs of Eden, till one greater Man
That fhepherd, who first taught the chosen feed,1,
Delight thee more, and Siloa's brook that flow'd